Google Search Console is a handy tool that should be used by every SEO, digital marketer, or anyone working with a functioning website. It’s an all-in-one tool that can provide you with everything from technical issues to keyword data. Even better, it’s also a FREE tool. All you have to do is verify your property, and you’re good to go. In this article, I’ll discuss 7 ways Google Search Console can be used to help increase traffic.
Why You Need to Live in GSC as an SEO
Learning the basics of GSC (adding a property, submitting a sitemap, checking to see if a URL was indexed) is one of the fundamentals of being an SEO, but learning how to leverage Google Search Console should be a must for all digital marketers. Especially if you work as an SEO, you should live in GSC daily. You should be able to eat, sleep and breathe Google Search Console.
If you know how to use it, Google Search Console is one of the most resourceful and effective SEO tools. That’s not to say that some third-party tools aren’t great, they do have their benefits, especially for more specific tasks like running a site audit or doing competitor research, but as an all-in-one tool, nothing comes close to being as valuable as Google Search Console. Below I’ll explain a few ways GSC can be used to increase organic traffic.
7 Ways Google Search Console Can Be Leveraged to Increase Organic Traffic
The first tip, which I think is the most beneficial, is to use the performance tab to review keywords that an individual page ranks for. So instead of focusing on one specific keyword, GSC will provide you with an entire list of relevant and secondary keywords that an individual page ranks for. Depending on the length of the content, GSC can provide you with over 500 related keywords.
And with these keywords, we can see the search volume (impressions) and the current ranking position to get a better idea on how to approach the next step. Updating the page to include more of these secondary keywords.
Another reason this is beneficial is that GSC will even include keyword data for terms that aren’t even on the page. Depending on the quality of your page, Google is generally able to understand what you’re writing about and rank that page based on the keywords within the page and keywords that are relevant to the topic.
So by updating your content to include these keywords, you can increase the rankings for that particular keyword and create another pipeline for clicks to the website. When adding in these relevant keywords, don’t just spam it over and over again; at least make sure it’s relevant to the page and will provide extra value to the content.
Google loves to see when content is being updated, especially when it’s to improve the page or content current. So if you see a keyword that your page ranks for but isn’t explicitly mentioned, you should update your content to include the new keyword (where it applies, don’t just throw it in there.)
There are a couple of ways to update your page to include these keywords. You can either look for an opportunity to add it directly to the page or create an entirely new section related to the keyword.
If the keyword is more competitive (has a high volume of searches, isn’t close to ranking, and is topically different from the other keywords), creating a separate piece of content with that being your targeted keyword would be more impactful.
Finding Striking Distance Pages
Finding striking distance keywords or pages can help increase traffic as well. For striking distance pages or keywords, it can be anything ranging from the bottom half of the first page to the top half of the third page. So basically, it’s a page or keyword that’s close to ranking but isn’t quite there yet.
Even if you’re ranking on the first page, we can see that most of the traffic volume is distributed to the first 5 results. Everything after that is going to see a fraction of those clicks.
So if you find a page or keyword that’s currently ranking between position 6 to position 20, we would consider that within striking distance. You will need to set custom filters within the performance tab underneath overview to find these keywords. This can be done for both queries and pages, but first, you would select the little three bars on the right-hand side that say “filter rows.”
Once you have that selected, it will give you five options (top query/page, clicks, impressions, click-through rate, and position.
To find pages/keywords with striking distance potential, you would want to set the date range to be within the last 28 days to have access to more current rankings. After that’s been done, you’ll want to choose the position filter and set it to show keywords that are ranking below the 20th position (you can play around with the number, 20 is usually the number I start with.).
Once you have the filter set, you should see all of the pages/keywords on your site that are ranked below the number you have entered. My personal blog doesn’t have a ton of content published, but to use it as an example, I set the filter to show me keywords that rank below position 55, which is on the sixth page of results.
You’ll usually receive a solid list of keywords from this filter, but to make sure I’m targeting valuable keywords, I’ll also set a filter for impressions. Again, you can play around with this number, but I’ll usually set the filter to show impressions greater than at least 10. This will allow me to filter out the junk and provide me with a solid list of keywords that are worth optimizing for.
After these two filters are set, you can click on the impressions tab to show the keywords/pages in descending order. This will show you the results for pages/keywords with the highest search volume within your position range. Those will always be the keywords to start with.
After you’ve identified a page or keyword with striking distance potential, you should research how that item is performing in the SERPs and optimize/update your content according to the top results. This doesn’t mean stealing your competitor’s work and content; instead, you should use your competitor’s page as a reference to see what search engines like to show when it comes to that particular topic.
Once you have a better idea of your topic, it’s time to update your page. When doing this, always make sure your content is better written than your competitors and is the most comprehensive resource on that particular topic. This will be necessary to outrank your competitors and overtake their ranking position on the SERPs.
Improving Click-Through Rate for High Performing Pages
This method follows a similar strategy to finding striking distance pages. However, for this, we’ll be looking for pages/keywords that are ranking in an optimal position and have a high volume of search impressions, but for some reason, these pages just aren’t receiving clicks. This applies when your page ranks within the top five results on the first page, but your competitors are still capturing more traffic than you.
To find these pages, you would want to set three filters. A click filter, an impression filter, and a position filter. Set the position filler to show you results smaller than 5 (to show the top results), then set a filter for search impressions to show you results greater than 50-100 (to see if these pages actually have traffic potential). Finally, you would set your click filter to show results smaller than 1 (to see if these pages are in fact not receiving traffic.) This should give you a solid list of pages that could use an update across your site.
When it comes to diagnosing this issue, it will almost always come down to the meta tags (the meta title and meta description.) These tags are the first thing users see when searching for a particular thing.
To improve the likelihood of a searcher clicking on your page, you would want to do several things. You would want to make sure your titles and descriptions aren’t truncating. In this case, both my title and description are being cut off, so I would want to shorten both to make sure searchers can read the full tag and understand what my page is about.
Next, you would want to create a unique title and meta. While meta descriptions aren’t a ranking factor, title tags are, so you’ll want to make sure you first include your target keyword (the keyword someone would use to search for something) and then include a call to action next to your target keyword to entice someone to click on the page. Having a clear and concise call to action for your meta description is beneficial since it gives the user a short idea of what the page is about and why they should click on the page.
Including your target keyword in your meta description may not benefit your SEO directly, but it can help influence the likelihood of something seeing your page. As you can see from the picture above, I only typed in my name which led to Google highlighting my name (the keyword) within the description. Although this won’t directly benefit this page’s SEO, it can increase the page’s visibility, increasing the likelihood of someone clicking on the page.
Next up we have content audits. This tip will apply more for websites with a larger volume of pages and blog posts, but to perform a content, we’ll basically want to look for any URLs on our site that aren’t receiving any traffic, aren’t ranking for any keywords, don’t have any search volume, and are potentially cannibalizing more important pages on the site.
The reason we’ll want to initiate this content audit is to prevent our site from being devalued by search engines. Having a large volume of pages with no clicks can hurt your SEO efforts since it signals to search engines that you’re producing content of poor quality. And search engines only want to show their users quality content, so if they see that your content is spammy and not providing any value to users, they might devalue your site and show fewer of your site’s pages to searchers.
To prevent this, you’ll want to identify any of these underperforming pages, delete them, and then add a redirect to a page that contains relevant content.
To take this one step further, you can usually turn this garbage into gold. If you have a page covering the same topic and performing better in search, you can scrape the content from the deleted page and add it to the new page. As I mentioned previously, Google loves to see fully comprehensive content that is regularly updated. So if you think any of the content on the previously deleted page can provide value to the new page, then absolutely add it there. It will not only help improve the content, but it will also provide you with more keywords to possibly rank for.
Finding these pages is relatively easy. All you’ll want to do is set a filter in GSC to show you the results of queries or pages that have low click and impression data. Once you identify these items, you’ll want to add a query filter to see if any keyword cannibalization is happening. This would mean that two or more pages on your site are ranking for the same keyword, causing the pages to underperform. One URL will generally outperform the other, but it still can confuse search engines and hinder your site’s potential.
Finding Pages That Have Dropped in Clicks But Increased in Impressions
Also in the performance tab, you can compare performance data for specific periods. Comparing results month over month, year over year, and so on.
Using this tool, specifically for recent results such as month over month or quarter over quarter, we can see if there have been any pages that have either dropped in rankings or clicks.
Once we identify these pages, we’ll want to see the cause of the drop. Sometimes it’s from a competitor overtaking our search position, our page has outdated content, or our meta tags have a weak call to action. Whatever the diagnosis may be, you’ll want to review the SERPs to see what Google is showing and improve the page based on that. In most cases, you’ll have to improve the quality of your content by making sure your content is fully comprehensive, is easy to read, and is better than what your competitors have written.
Adding media (audio, video, pictures, etc.) is also a great and easy way to improve the quality of a page. Search engines love to see media included within a page since it signals that your page focuses on the searcher’s experience and provides valuable and informative content. Search engines ultimately want to show content that will only benefit searchers, and using images, infographics, and videos is a great way to show that you’re providing quality content.
Freeing Up Crawl Budget – More Technical But Still Useful
While this will apply more to pages that are currently dealing with indexing issues, this is a great way to help expedite the process of these pages being crawled, indexed, and ranking.
To do this, you’ll want to head over to the coverage report underneath the index tab. There you’ll see any URLs on your site that haven’t been included in Google’s index yet. Most of the time, you’ll see URLs marked as discovered not indexed (search engine crawlers have discovered your page but haven’t crawled it yet) or crawled not indexed (search engine crawlers have crawled the page but determined to not include it in the index). While crawled not indexed generally seems to come down to the quality of the page, discovered not indexed is more of a nuisance.
To increase the chances of getting your page crawled, you’ll need to free up your crawl budget. In this case, a crawl budget is basically the number of pages Google will crawl on your site on any given day. Depending on the site size and the site’s authority, you will have a limited number of crawls per day.
To optimize your crawl budget, you would want to mark any non-organic pages (pages that won’t need to be optimized for search) as noindex. By doing this, you’ll basically be telling crawlers that this page isn’t important for search and will not need to be indexed. Basically, when you do this, you’re communicating to a programmed crawler that a page isn’t significant and that they should be focusing their efforts on more important pages. Thus enhancing the likelihood of a discovered not indexed page being crawled and hopefully indexed.
When marking a page as noindex, you can do this on the back end of your site using any SEO plugin like Yoast or Rank Math.
In this case, tags or categories are useless for my SEO efforts, so I would come to where it says “allow search engines to show this in search” and change the option to “no.”. Once I’ve switched that over, I’ll check the page source to see if it was actually marked as noindex.
Internal Linking Using Pages With a High Volume of Backlinks
It’s a no-brainer that backlinks are crucial for your SEO efforts, but to provide more value to your link-building efforts, you can internally link to other competitive pages using the pages that have been previously targeted with backlinks. This will help pass PageRank around and allow the page to perform better.
While you can find these pages using any third-party tool, we can also find these pages by using GSC. You can find the link tab on GSC close to the bottom on the left-hand side.
Once you have this tab selected, you can see all of the top linked URLs on your site. Starting from the top with the highest linked page, you’ll want to use that page to internally link to whatever page you want to improve. This could be a recent blog post or for striking distance pages; you’ll want to use the top linked pages to internally link to these pages using exact-match or relevant keywords/phrases as anchor text.
Backlinks aside, internal linking should still be done for all relevant pages, but using this tool is a great way to give you an effective start on your efforts.